Last Sunday morning's service we talked about Jesus as the man of sorrows. We saw the sorrow that he experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. Immediately following that there is another experience that Jesus had of immense sorrow, and one cannot really understand the fullness of his suffering, his condescension unless one understands his sorrow. And I want you to open your Bible to 26 Matthew again and I'd like to pick up where we left off, 26 Matthew and verse 47.
"And while he was still speaking, behold Judas, one of the twelve came up accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying him gave them a sign saying 'Whom every I shall kiss he is the one, seize him.' And immediately he went to Jesus and said, 'Hail Rabbi!' And kissed him.
And Jesus said to him, 'Friend, do what you have come for.'
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized him."
If there is a more ugly, repulsive word than traitor it is surely the name Judas. We come to a text in which the Lord Jesus, the man of sorrows faces another deep experience of pain as he is betrayed by one of his own disciples. The narrative of this event is filled with fascinating drama, tragedy, and sadness.
Verse 47 tells us while he was still speaking Judas came accompanied by a great multitude. All three synoptic gospels, Mathew, Mark, and Luke say that while our lord was still speaking, the crowd arrived. What was he saying? The words recorded in verses 45 and 46 obviously and we'll note those later.
I'm certain you'll remember the setting. Let me construct it again in your mind because it's so important. Six days before on Saturday Jesus arrived in Bethany, a little village to the east of Jerusalem. He arrived there to begin to participate in the Passover season in Jerusalem. That was Saturday. On Sunday he taught, met with the crowd that came to Bethany to see him. On Monday he made his stirring entry into Jerusalem, they threw palm branches at his feet and hailed him as Messiah. That was Monday.
On Tuesday he went into the temple and cleared the money changers, the greedy merchants out. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday he taught in the temple, confronted and condemned the religious leaders. At the end of the day on Wednesday, he taught his disciples a great Olivette discourse about his second coming and his kingdom.
Thursday he had the disciples prepare the Passover while they ate after sunset. At that meal in the borrowed upper room on Thursday night he washed their feet. He taught them, he gave them his great legacy and all his promises. And he instituted this communion table.
Sometime toward the end of that meal, that institution of communion, Judas was dismissed to carry out his evil treachery. Near midnight on that Thursday Judas left the upper room, left the disciples, left Jesus, walked through the city, did his dastardly work.
Also somewhere before midnight, Jesus left the upper room, took the remaining disciples with him, went out of the city on the east down the back slope of the mountain across the Kedron Valley to the Mount of Olives. There he spoke to his disciples and he warned them. It was probably after midnight now. He warned them about the coming distress, then he proceeded on up the Mount of Olives to a garden called the Garden of Gethsemane or Olive Press. He left eight of the disciples somewhere just inside the garden and took Peter, James, and John on further and then asked them to wait proceeding himself maybe 30 yards further to pray alone.
Satan tempted him severely to try to avoid the cross, but he was totally victorious and came out of that temptation triumphant and ready to do his father's will.
After the third session of prayer, he returned to find the disciples sleeping and it's then that we hear his words in verses 45 and 46.
"Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold the hour is at hand and the son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going. Behold the one who betrays me is at hand."
And I told you Sunday at that moment as he comes back to the sleeping three and proceeds then to the other eight who also have fallen asleep, as he wakens them he looks off through the olive trees and he can see the torches, he can see the crowd coming. It's a huge crowd and he can very likely see Judas leading them.
He doesn't run, he goes toward the crowd to meet them, ready to do the father's will. And so verse 47 says, "While he was still speaking, behold Judas, one of the twelve."
Almost sarcastically is he identified, and by the way the writers of Scripture are very reserved in how they deal with Judas, as ugly, as repulsive, as wicked, as unthinkable as was the deed he did, the writers of Scripture are restrained from virulent epithets. Restrained from vicious adjectives. And the major way they speak of him is with disdain and with sarcasm. They call him one of the twelve caustically.
Scripture writers, by the way, are far kinder to Judas than later non-biblical apocryphal writers who held nothing back. For example, an ancient document called the story of Joseph of Arimathea teaches that Judas was the son of the brother of Caiaphas, the wicked high priest, and had been persuaded to infiltrate Jesus' group of followers as a spy with the deliberate intent to devise a scheme for the destruction of Jesus.
Another ancient document called the Acts of Pilate says that Judas went home after betraying Jesus, found his wife roasting a chicken on the fire. He told his wife that he had so much remorse over the betrayal that he was planning to kill himself and he also feared that Jesus would rise from the dead and kill him in a tortuous way. in order to avoid that, he would take his own life.
His wife, according to this Act of Pilate document replied that Jesus would not more rise from the dead than that the chicken she was cooking would sit up and crow, whereupon it did, and Judas went out and hanged himself.
Another ancient document, and I know about these because I wrote my thesis in seminary on Judas, another ancient document called the Coptic Narrative focusing on the ministry of Jesus and the passion teaches that Judas did the whole thing to Jesus for the reason that he was a victim of his wife's greed for money and she sent him out to get her some money, and this was his scheme to accomplish that. A twelfth century legendary aura says that Judas was cast away into the sea by his parents, years later he served Pontius Pilate, met and married a beautiful woman only to discover she was his mother, an Oedipus kind of story.
Kramer'sKatinasays that Judas contracted some disease and became so swollen with inflammation that a wagon could pass where he could not. His head became so swollen that his physician couldn't find his eyes. Worms corrupted his inside body and the place where he died had to be avoided because of this terrible stench.
Another ancient document says he was killed by a wagon. Crushed in such a way that his body burst apart. The point is that for centuries after Judas, there was strong hatred toward him. But the Bible writers are very reserved. Very reserved.
Back to the scene in the garden. on Friday morning now after midnight, Jesus has exposed Judas as the traitor. You remember at the Passover meal he said one of you will betray me, and Judas being the one went out and it was night. Upon leaving he consummated his agreement with the Jewish leaders, God is money. And he urged the leaders to act with haste, to take advantage of the darkness and the fact that Jesus was alone with the disciples away from the huge crowds that thronged him during the daylight. Pressed by greed, possessed by Satan, and yet a servant of holy purpose Judas gathered the leaders, the soldiers, and sent them on a mission to capture Jesus. And so they come into the garden, let by Judas who wants his money, who wants his pound of flesh, who wants his compensation for wasted years following Jesus around in poverty only to have him die rather than establish a kingdom that would make Judas rich.
It had been a frantic few hours for Judas, believe me, since he left the upper room. A hasty meeting with the Jewish leaders, getting permission to take Roman soldiers along, which permission probably had to come from Pilate himself and in order to get that somehow Judas had to convince Pilate or somebody representing Pilate that Jesus was an insurrectionist against the Roman government. Perhaps Judas and a part of his entourage had checked out the upper room to make sure the disciples along with Jesus had left there and when they knew they were not in the upper room, they knew where they would be because it was a custom to go into the garden.
And so Judas comes leading a great multitude. It's important to note that the text says, "From the chief priests and elders of the people." Why does it say that? It doesn't mean that that was the total crowd. It says, "The great multitude with swords and clubs came from the chief priests and elders of the people." They were there, but the point here is they authorized it. You hate to say this, but it's true, the Jewish leaders were behind it all.
John 18:3 says, "Having received a band and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees." it was the religious leaders who led in the capture of Jesus and in his execution.
They gathered a band, what is a band? The Roman word spyronis a cohort, a spyron is a tenth of a legion. A legion at full strength is 6,000 men, a spyron is 600 men. Chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sagisees, 600 Roman soldiers under Caesar and the governor Pilate who had his headquarters in Caesarea but a palace in Jerusalem.
Extra troops, by the way, were available at this time in Jerusalem because of the Passover. The crowds in the city swelled and in order to control the crowds, more soldiers were dispatched. Thus, the movement of 600 troops through the city and out the east gate that at this time of the morning would attract no unwarranted attention because there were so many troops around the city anyway.
And the Roman legions had recently put down an insurrection, a terrorist uprising noted in Mark 15, they were ready to stop another one before it began. So the leaders of the temple were there, the leaders of the priesthood were there, the leaders of the San Hedron were there, some kind of Roman officials were there. The captain of the temple was there according to Luke 22, and here comes this crowd that could have been as many as 1,000 people.
John adds that they had lanterns, torches, and weapons. They're ready to take this conspirator, full moon at Passover. Full moon and a clear Jerusalem sky. Passover came at the middle of the month and the month began with a new moon. They thought that they might have to search for him, that he would hide from them, so they brought their torches just in case.
It also says they came with swords and clubs, machaira and zula. By the way zula clubs were the regular weapons of the temple police, like a billy club. Machaira were short daggers carried by Roman soldiers.
And so here it is, instead of welcoming the son of God as the long awaited, expected Messiah, they sent a group of vigilantes and soldiers to capture him for the purpose of murdering him. The wickedness of the world. Jew and Gentile alike, they are both there. Wickedness. And their wickedness is unjust. They have no right to do this. No reason. Christ had done nothing wrong. There was no crime, they are unfair, inequitable, unjust evil murderers.
Their deeds against Jesus have no relationship to truth. Not only are they unjust, they are mindless. What did the soldiers and the majority of Jewish leaders have against Christ? Nothing. It was just the mindless mood of the mob. They sold themselves out to the emotion, the collective emotion of those who wanted Jesus dead, the hirelings of the high priests. Fearing somehow he would intrude upon their very profitable priesthood.
Not only were they unjust and mindless, they were cowardly. I mean all they're going to take here is one Galilean, but you know what a guilty conscience makes people afraid. A guilty conscience can turn you into a coward. They wouldn't go without a 600 men contingent from the Romans. Wickedness fears that it might get what it deserves, you know that?
Wickedness is frightened. Not only were they cowardly, they were profane. How profane were they? They were about to profane the most sacred person who'd ever walked on the earth. What blatant lack of piety to lay murderous hands on the holy lord. This is an ugly crowd. An ugly crowd, unjust, mindless, cowardly, and profane.
No where, frankly, is there a better picture of how treat Jesus today. They treat him the same way, unjustly. They're unfair. They misjudge him. Misevaluate him. They are mindless, they just go with the crowd. They are cowardly. They're not really willing to consider Jesus Christ honestly. They're not really willing to come to him and ask the questions and receive the truth and they treat him profanely. Nothing really has changed.
But us ugly as the crowd is, Judas is even uglier. This goes down as the ugliest act in all of human history. The hypocrisy of it is beyond description. Verse 48, "Now he who was betraying him gave them a sign saying whomever I shall kiss, he is the one. Seize him." It's just inconceivable.
The signal seemed necessary to mark out Jesus so there would be no mistake and no one could pretend to be him while he escaped. This indicates, by the way, that Jesus had no special physical feature, like a halo over his head. There was no way to tell him, maybe even harder in the dark, and so Judas had to find a way to identify him, but what an unthinkable, unbelievable means he chose. Kissing in that time of history is the mark of homage, paid in respect and love to a teacher. It was also a sign of affection. Inferiors kissed the back of the hand or if above the position of a servant, kissed the palm. Slave kissed the foot and so do suppliants deprecating anger or begging pardon.
Kissing the hem of a garment expressed great reverence, but the kiss on the cheek is the sign of intimacy. Warm affection among equals. It is a mark not of gratitude. It is a mark not of homage. It is a mark of love. Hence Judas with the kiss intensified the ugliness of the blackest act of treachery.
What kind of mind can do such a thing. Here is feigned innocence. A weak attempt to conceal the real character of Judas' treachery. It's bad enough to betray a friend, worst to have sold God, but a greater delusion for having thought that he could hide from God behind a hypocrite's kiss.
Proverbs 27:6 says "The kisses of an enemy are profuse." Oh they have something to prove don't they in their hypocrisy and so they overdo it. The hatred of the priests, the raucous screams of the crowd, the pitiful cowardous of Pilate, the brutality of the soldiers. Jesus suffered with a quiet heart, but this must have been a blow of greater sorrow that any other human act against him.
All the love he'd given Judas, and this is what he gets. It is reminiscent of those who according to Ezekiel pollute God among the people for handfuls of barley and bread. Amos indicated that there are those who sell the righteous for money and the poor for shoes. It's that kind of thing that Judas does.
Only a Satan possessed soul could conceive such a perversion and pull it off with such boldness. And verse 49 says, "Then immediately he went to Jesus and said 'Hail, Rabbi!' Hello teacher, and kissed him." And the Greek here means kissed him intensely, fervently, repeatedly, and affectionately.
This is the word used, if you can believe it, for a man kissing his bride. Brash, he has overstepped the protocol of a student who should wait to be spoken to and embraced first by his teacher. Luke adds that Jesus said to Judas, "Are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?" Mark says Judas went ahead and said, "Master! Master!" And kept kissing him.
Judas must know that Jesus knows. After all he told him in the upper room. But Judas is so wicked, so vile as to pretend anyway in his fevered brain he is headed for self-murder, and Jesus endured it. Verse 50, "And Jesus said to him 'Friend," by the way, the word here is etarein Greek. It is not the regular word for friend. It's sort of a word for comrade, companion, fellow, friend is filos. Jesus is still though saying companion, fellow. Frankly Judas has long ago ceased to be Jesus' friend. "For a friend", Jesus said, "lays down his life for someone."
But the lord didn't blast him to ashes with his words. He didn't turn him to a smoldering ember. He didn't blow him out of existence. He just said to him, "Fellow do what you've come for."
How understated. Here, by the way, are Jesus' last words to the son of Perdition. Here is Jesus' eternal farewell. Frankly, Judas is probably hearing these words even now, all eternity must be filled with the echo of Jesus' words, "Are you betraying the son of man with a kiss? Fellow, do what you're here for."
Unbelievable suffering. Judas was greedy. He was wicked. He was hypocritical and he was damned. Do what you're here for. And frankly so it is with every person who treats Jesus unjustly, who treats Jesus with profanity, who deals with him like a coward. You better be careful how you treat Jesus. He is the man of sorrows, but those who cause him sorrow and do not repent are destroyed in eternal punishment.
The last words Judas heard from his lips, "Do what you came for." And they must echo and will echo in his mind forever. It wasn't long after this that he took the silver because the guilt had mounted to proportions beyond his capability to handle. He went back, threw the money back to the leaders, went out found a rope, tied it around a branch over a cliff, jumped, seeking to hang himself. The branch broke and his body was smashed on the rocks at the base of the cliff, and he went into eternity.
The son of man suffered as a man of sorrows at the hands of Judas, at the crowds hands. Still that is the case. This world believe me is full of Judas'. You pick up Newsweek magazine, you pick up Time magazine, you read about them. They greet Jesus with a liberal's kiss. They're damned. There are people who treat Jesus with profanity. They ignore him, they refuse him, they reject him, they treat him unjustly, unfairly, they will not bow the knee. They are part of the mindless crowd, and he still suffers at their hands.
But for us, the man of sorrows has enough sorrow. He has born our griefs and our sorrows. He has given us new life and it is our privilege and honor and joy to bring him joy, to bring him happiness, to bring him satisfaction as we seek to walk in his word and in his will.
As we think about the cross tonight, as we share in the lord's table in these final 15 minutes, I want you to remember how Jesus suffered, how he continues to suffer the terrible, terrible slights of unbelievers and hypocrites who want nothing to do with him, they want him out of their life. And how it behooves us as we think of the cross to reaffirm our devotion that we'll bring him no suffering, but only joy as we obey him.
Let's pray together. Father, thank you for the fact that though we deserve to be with Judas, we deserve to be with the unjust and the mindless and the cowardly. We deserve to be with the hypocrites. In your mercy you have saved us. And lord we want to acknowledge our gratitude not just with words we say, but with the way we live. So we want to refresh our commitment to obedience to you tonight as we come to this table to remember your suffering for us and we stop short of the cross, we've seen your suffering in the garden, your suffering in front of the crowd and at the lips of Judas though was even more. Right after this all your disciples fled, Peter denied you, and the crowd followed you to the cross and mocked you while the Romans crucified you. Suffering didn't end until you died.
All that you bore us the man of sorrows and lord it would be our great privilege tonight to have you cleanse and forgive us for every sin and then to refresh our devotion to you, to go from this place, to cause joy to you by the way we live, the way we speak, the way we think. Lord may we come to this table with hearts of confession and devotion that we might receive a cleansing by your spirit through your forgiveness so freely offered to us and we might be infused with strength that we might live so that you might be pleased.
As we remember the bread, we remember you body given for us. The cup reminds us of your bloodshed, the epitome of your suffering for us. We lift up our hearts in gratitude.